Date Publish: 
Thursday, July 2, 2020



1st July 2020 – A Virtual Discussion


The IOM Regional Office for South-Eastern Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, in collaboration with the IOM offices in the Western Balkans, held a virtual discussion on return and reintegration in the context of mixed migration flows on July 1, 2020. This discussion was an amended version to the originally planned meeting that was scheduled to take place on March 24-25, 2020 but had to be postponed due to the COVID 19 Pandemic. The event brought together participants from national counterparts from the Western Balkans, the Netherlands, Austria, Germany and Denmark and the EU to analyse the current approaches and challenges consolidating return and reintegration options as an essential part of migration management system. IOM Missions in the Western Balkans, Germany, Austria, Netherlands, Denmark, and the representation of the IOM Regional Office Vienna, the IOM Regional Office to the IOM Regional Office in Brussels and the Migrant Protection and Assistance Division at IOM Headquarters also attended.

The aim of the event was to advance the discussion on understanding how return and reintegration interventions are implemented in the Western Balkans, but also understand the short- and medium-term priorities especially in response to the COVID 19 pandemic. The event looked at information campaigns/return counselling, the process of migrants´ reintegration into their communities of origin, innovative responses to COVID 19 and ways to identify and address migrants´ vulnerabilities.

The meeting started with a virtual introduction given by Mr Sacha Chan Kam, Senior Regional Migrant Protection and Assistance Specialist. The welcoming remarks by Mr Peter Van der Auweraert, Sub Regional Coordinator WB and Chief of Mission BIH followed. Then there was an overview of AVRR from the Western Balkans given by Mrs Donatella Bradic, Migration Management Team Leader followed by an open discussion. Event outlined the main opportunities and challenges in the future such as:

  • To streamline return process and reinforce links with Countries of O​rigin
  • To further embed the AVRR approach within beneficiaries' administrative structures​
  • To further exchange approaches to return and reintegration with other regions experiencing mixed migration flows
  • To reinforce the reintegration spectrum both at individual and community level​
  • To strengthen return management ensuring AVRR is available – making return increasingly a choice
  • Migrants set to and continue to be willing to embark on their journey to the EU
  • Finding the balance between Reintegration Assistance in the EU and Reintegration Assistance back in Countries of Origin
  • Keep up and maintaining-innovating the communication medium​


What next for the Western Balkans in the area of Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration has been discussed in the conclusion of the event:

  • The evolution of AVRR – both in terms of return conditions and state ownership requires that the approach to returns be fully acknowledged at all levels​
  • Traditional AVRR approaches such as counselling and  information provision need to adapt to both the needs and the digital medium​
  • Understanding better the impact of AVRR but also the needs of migrants remains key – as such research should not be neglected ​
  • Exploring new tools for counselling and capacity development that can reinforce traditional AVRR activities ​